he Cold War had definitely presented itself with the highest amounts of “backstage” events, played mostly by the CIA and the KGB. Through my readings of declassified CIA files, I have presented various experiments that the CIA constituted, but never have really focused on information that was blightingly out in the open such as the top-secret weapon known as the heart attack gun.
You can say that the gun looks like a toy at best, especially with that ridiculous scope, but from the descriptions of the American senator Franck Church, the weapon is scary, to say the least, even to today’s standards.
The weapon development
The CIA needed a weapon to take care of the targets on their blacklist without living any sort of trace that would bring up suspicions in the media. One of the hot targets was Fidel Castro, the Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976. Killing people from a distance was the go-to choice, but every bullet can be traced back. Getting too close to the target would risk the agent being compromised.
This is why the CIA gave the task of creating a new secret weapon to Mary Embree. Embree started working at the CIA as a secretary in the audio surveillance department. With time she got promoted to the technical services department where she was asked specifically to research a new poison that would induce a heart attack on its victim but was undetectable in a post-mortem verification.
The technical team came up with a gun that would shoot poisoned projectiles that would dissolve inside the target and induce a heart attack which would be undetectable upon post-mortem. Embree wasn’t able to confirm if the gun was used to assassinate someone, but she did confirm that animals, as well as prisoners, were used to test the weapon.
To explain the strange scope on top of the weapon, besides being a pistol, the gun had the ability to shoot the poisoned projectile from 100 meters with good accuracy, hence the scope.
Mass media frenzy leading to CIA regulations
Many people promoted this weapon in the early period of time that the media found out about it as using some sort of “death ray” to provoke a cardiac attack on its victims, making it sound as if it was out of contemporary science fiction movies.
The Church Committee was jumping on every piece of evidence that was coming out about the CIA. This committee was selected by the U.S. Senate to investigate any sort of power abuse committed by the CIA. In 1975, they gained a lot of support from American citizens around all states who wanted to know more about what the CIA was doing from an untechnical point of view.
Seeing that things were heating up President Gerald Ford was forced to ban any tactics of targeted assassination conducted by the CIA and any other intelligence agencies. To calm down the mass media, Senator Frank Church wanted to present the secret weapon to the Church Committee once it got banned and to clearly explain how it would be used.
Once again, the committee asked if the weapon had been used previously before its ban to assassinate anyone to which they got a doubting no.
What happened with the weapon after its presentation to the public is unknown even to this day. At the time it was said that the weapon would be handed to the U.S. military to keep it secure, although banning a weapon should mean its destruction. There are speculations that the weapon remained in the hands of the CIA.
For America, this was a massive blow as most of the information from this event had leaked to the KGB, showing not only the capabilities the CIA had at the time but also how spies from the KGB could influence the Western media towards more CIA regulations which may or may not have applied.